Leviathan Wakes, the first in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series (set to be at least nine novels now, and also the basis for a new show that’s apparently pretty good) was published in 2012. I bought it in 2013, and read it . . . last week. Such is the fate of books in my house.
The book follows James Holden, the executive officer on an ice hauler working the rings of Saturn, and Detective Miller of the Ceres security service, who’s handed a missing persons case that looks ugly. Both men are drawn into a web of intrigue that extends throughout the solar system. This is space opera, after all.
Leviathan Wakes is a sci-fi mystery, and it’s a great read. I’m definitely going to pick up Caliban’s War, the second book in the series, probably next summer—this kind of novel is a treat, like a yearly walk down to beachside clam shack.
If you’re on the fence, here are five reasons to give Leviathan Wakes a try:
- It’s a doorstop at 561 pages, but it reads fast: I stayed up late and then woke up early to finish it, and I love sleep. Each chapter is chock-full of tension, and the action almost never lets up.
- The setting is way cool: Leviathan Wakes is set in a middle future—earlier than Star Trek, later than The Martian. Humanity has colonized the solar system, but hasn’t reached the stars or other species yet. Corey (the pen name of two writers) does a great job exploring what it would take to get us to that point, and what the costs would be.
- It’s smart but not inaccessible: This isn’t a Michael Bay summer blockbuster kind of book, but it’s not as cerebral as Ancillary Justice (which I loved). There’s a nice balance of action with consideration of how race and class—and war—might look in our future.
- It’ll remind you of classic sci-fi movies and TV: Are you a fan of Alien, Blade Runner, The Abyss, or Firefly? Then Leviathan Wakes is going to ring your bell. It’s got the gritty noir of Blade Runner, the misfit crew of Firefly, the atmosphere and tension of The Abyss, and some serious callbacks to Alien and Aliens.
- It stands alone: I like a good series as much as the next person, but I dislike cliffhangers that try to force me to pick up the next book. Leviathan Wakes has a satisfying ending that whets the appetite for the next book. Just right.
Have you read any good sci-fi lately?
13 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Read: Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey”
I hardly ever read sci-fi, but I did recently get a chance to read an advanced copy of Daughter of Eden, the last book in Chris Beckett’s trilogy. (I noticed you reviewed the first book, Dark Eden. Have you read the others?)
I started the second book, but it didn’t grab me the way that the first did. What did you think of Daughter of Eden?
The third book reminded me of the final volume in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, if you’re familiar with that — it fills in the story but doesn’t necessarily advance it. It’s more about how myths are made. I didn’t find it as interesting as the other two.
I haven’t read MaddAddam (but I want to!) but I completely see that’s how the third book in this series would work.
OK, I don’t read much sci-fi anymore, but a sci-fi mystery might be more up my line. I might have to try this one.
I really enjoyed it. The detective even wears a funny hat, in a nice nod to Chandler et al.
Hmmm. I wonder if I would like this book.
I think you would. The library should have it if you want to try it sooner rather than later.
I might have to give this one a try. I started watching the TV show based on it and I liked a lot about it but I found it kind of confusing too. So maybe I should read this and then try the TV show again. have you seen the show at all? And if so, what do you think of it in comparison to the book?
I haven’t seen the show (we don’t have cable)—I understand that people though the patois was confusing, and it makes sense in the book as the other characters translate.
My favorite part of this book was grounding (not literally) humanity in our own system. A trap of science fiction can be the limitlessness of technology. This means deus ex’s all over the place. There’s nothing like that in here. No warp jumps. If you need to make a decision, it better be a good one, because if you travel one direction, only to find out you should have traveled another, everything could fall apart. There’s some interesting tension there.
My big problem was not getting into either Holden or Miller. I liked Miller’s chapters because I think Daniel Abraham (who wrote those chapters) is a better writer than Ty Frank. At least in this book. I preferred Miller on the whole, but his odd obsession with Julie never made a lot of sense to me. Thoughts?
Agreed on the mid-future setting–it really worked for me. I didn’t mind Miller’s obsession with Julie; it felt like an entry into the “hardened detective has soft spot for troubled girl” genre/trope. If the book had literary pretensions, I’d count that as a mark against it, but in a space opera/mystery/action thriller, that’s fine by me.
On another note, I was going to get snarky on why the POV characters (with very limited exception for the prologue) are men, but apparently that’s not the case in the sequels, so I’m temporarily holding my fire.
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